High school football playoffs begin on Saturday and the final game to begin will be the first one we look at today. The Melville Cobras (4-2) travel to Yorkton to battle the Sacred Heart Saints (5-1) in East Central football action and this one has all the makings to be an instant classic.
These two teams met only once this season and it was way back on September 2nd in week one. The Saints, capitalizing on big plays and strong, timely defense, came out on top 16-9. Much has happened since then but for both teams it was four wins and a lone loss against Lumsden (6-0).
“We won the games we knew we had to,” reflects Saints coach Trent Senger on the team’s best season in recent memory. “The last game of the season we went and we played all our players equally. We kept some of our starters off so the score looked pretty lopsided but I’m okay with that.
“We did what we wanted to do throughout the year. We got the home playoff game, which we’ve never had in Yorkton in, I think, forever so we accomplished what we wanted to before that game (with Lumsden) and then we wanted to play all our players before the push for the playoffs.”
Melville head coach John Svenson is pleasantly surprised with the way the Cobras season has gone.
“(The season has gone) surprisingly well, considering the youth and inexperience we have on our team. We don’t have very many grade twelve (players) so, the core of our team is grade ten’s and eleven’s so I’m really pleased with our four and two record.”
The regular season meeting between the two teams came down to big plays and timely defense.
“It was a defensive game, in all honesty,” notes Senger. “Our defense managed to get one more stop then their defense. We scored on two big plays, one forty-seven yard pass and one fourteen yard end around and really that’s are whole offense in the game. I think we ended up with another twelve yards more than that.
“So really (the story) was (that) Melvile’s defense controlled our offense and on the other side we played defensively very very well which has been kind of our stock this year. We went by the strength of our defense.”
Although it was only week one, the Cobras feel that their season turned around after the opening week loss to the Saints.
“I think that (game) was kind of the turnaround point in our season,” reflects Svenson. “I think once the boys got a little confidence their play improved and I think we showed that (improved play) down the stretch (by) giving Lumsden a pretty good game and (winning) some lopsided games down the road
“We started to click and we worked on our offense and I think it’s coming around. As a coach you hope that all the work you put in all year, all the reps the players take is worth it in the end and they can execute the way we envisioned the offense to run.
“I think we’re going to do some things better (on offense) than we did earlier in the year. I think our blocking has improved because we’ve made it a priority in our practices to work on our plays. We shrunk our playbook down to make it even more simple and I think it will play dividends for us on Saturday.”
A major part of the Cobras defensive game plan will be attempting to eliminate the big play from the Saints offense.
“Our defense played really well against them the first time we played,” noted Svenson. “We gave up one first down in the game and still gave up two touchdowns so it’s the long play that hurt us a couple of times and the turnovers at inopportune times (like) deep in our own end and those types of things are mistakes we have to eliminate.
“As far as our defense goes, our defense is solid. We’re going to have to cover well we know that. We’re also going to have to tackle well because they’ve got a couple hard running backs so those are the things defenses have to do in order to win and I think we’re up to the challenge.
One challenge for the Saints this week will be moving the ball more effectively on offense than the last time these two teams clashed. The addition of speedy grade eleven running back Preston Liebrecht should help in that regard.
The Saints were without Liebrecht for their first three games of the season but he is sure to make an impact on Saturday.
“(With Liebrecht) we’ve added a little more balance to our offense. We’ve got one real fast (running back), two really strong pounders and we’ve added to our passing game so I think we’ve diversified a little bit rather than what we tried to do in Melville.”
The grade 11 Saints running back scorched the Lumsden Devils defense with a 76 yard touchdown on the Saints first play of the game last week and racked up 88 yards on just 4 touches in limited action.
“We have a couple different looks that we haven’t shown them and I know from watching them the last little while that they’re offense has really come around. They’ve really added a lot to the passing game so that’s something that we’re really going to have to be careful for.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 3:00pm in Yorkton. The winner of this game will move on to provincials and play the #1 team in the South West which will be the winner of Assiniboia and Maple Creek.